Sweden - Up North, Down to Earth


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There are a lot of reasons to take a closer look at Sweden. One of them is that it is a country of great natural beauty and wilderness. But Sweden is also at the front line of global issues such as equality, human rights and sustainability. Swedes are some of the world's fastest people at adapting to new trends and ideas, and, it seems, are constantly on the cusp of a groundbreaking innovation.
Written by two former Swedish expats, Sweden-Up North, Down to Earth gives an overall view of Sweden as it is today. It presents regular Swedes and astonishing Swedes, supercars and indie rock bands, vampires and royalty.

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Sweden - Up North, Down to Earth

  1. 1. Sweden Up North, Down to Earth Much of the focus of this book has been to highlight the cornerstones of Swedish society: equality, sustainability and transparency to mention a few. Giving a general overview of Sweden and Swedish society, the authors have homed in on the latest and most telling trends. This short book might just change the way you view Sweden.
  2. 2. Swedes love to immerse themselves in nature. Come summer, few activities can match a swim in a nearby lake.
  3. 3. Contents Preface 5 Sweden in Brief 6 naTure 10 Geography 10 Weather and Climate 13 National Parks 13 Animals and Vegetation 14 Accessing Nature 14 Sustainable City Planning 17 SocieTy 23 Swedes 23 Education and Research 24 Health Care and Social Security 25 The Labor Market 25 Equality 26 Democracy 30 Government 32 Monarchy 33 Sweden in the World 33 Innovations 34 culTure and leiSure 42 Film and Stage 42 Literature 42 Art 45 Music 45 Design and Craft 46 Fashion 47 Sports 51 Traditions 51 Gastronomy 57 Swedish Language 65 HiSTory 66
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  5. 5. Preface Stepping Up to the Challenge We Swedes speak up and put our collective foot down there, more so for its traditional than religious meaning. much more than people give us credit for. We are The change in Swedish society is ongoing. Swedes unafraid to push the boundaries that challenge both are some of the world’s fastest at adapting to new trends ourselves and others. We lobby hard for international and ideas. A curious and creative people with the means agreements about the environment. We trust children to change, it’s no wonder we Swedes don’t always recog- to handle difficult subjects and emotions; so we don’t nize ourselves in the labels the world has assigned us: protect them from topics like divorce or homosexuality. blond, quiet and homogenous, among others. We have some of the strictest laws in the world against We are no more collectively blond than we are all human trafficking, prostitution and drugs. We dare to be internet pirates. Over the past fifty years or so, it’s true controversial. that Sweden has seen a lot of change in its demographics, We are used to seeing our country rank high on vari- as almost a fifth of the population has roots in other ous global studies covering everything from broad- countries. There is an ongoing migration of people in band quality to responsible competitiveness. These both directions. studies confirm that Sweden is indeed a modern nation The multicultural society brings a lot of good, but and part of the global community. Yet the journey from the short time-span in which Sweden has had to adjust a poor agrarian society started less than a century ago, has also presented some difficult challenges. The ugly and in some ways part of the Swedish mentality holds face of cultural segregation is yet to be wiped out com- on for dear life to its simple rural past. We are as fond pletely, but ethnic boundaries are increasingly crossed of our traditions as we are of our modern lifestyle. Our when it comes to anything from falling in love to work- relationship to the church is a point in case. Secular ing together or doing politics. At least the course is set Swedes marry in church, and children are baptized for a Sweden without prejudice. Snow and cold weather opens up for new ways to explore Stockholm. 5
  6. 6. d i d y o u k n ow T H aT the lowest elevation in Sweden is in the bay of lake Hammarsjön at 7.9 ft/2.4 m below sea level, and the highest point is kebnekaise  at 6,926 ft/2,111 m above sea level? Sweden in Brief Sweden is the third largest country in the European Union 2008, 14 percent of the population was born outside members of the Church of Sweden. While the Church of (EU) and comparable in size to Thailand and California. of Sweden. Sweden is Lutheran, it coexists with many other beliefs, At 174,000 square miles/451,000 km², one can travel 978 The capital Stockholm is also the most populous city practices and faiths. Upset Swedes more commonly turn miles/1,574 km north to south and 310 miles/499 km east ahead of Gothenburg, Malmö and Uppsala. About 85 to biblical rather than sexual references for cursing. to west as the crow flies. Over half of Sweden’s area con- percent of the population lives in urban areas. Although an EU member since 1995, we still pay with sists of forests, 11 percent of mountains and about 9 per- Swedish, which is the main language, is also an of- the krona (SEK) when we go shopping. We export a lot cent of rivers and lakes. All that open space and nature is ficial language in Finland and the EU. Sweden, mean- of machinery, electronics and telecommunication prod- a major underlying factor to our environmental awareness while, recognizes Sami, Finnish, Meänkieli (Torne Valley ucts and services, paper, pharmaceuticals, petroleum as well as our fondness of outdoor activities. Finnish), Yiddish and Romani Chib as minority languag- products, iron and steel. Our imports include electronics The open space also means quite a low population es. Several other languages, such as Arabic and Polish, and telecommunication products, machinery, foodstuffs, density; in fact only 53 people per square mile/21 per are also commonly heard, and we are often complement- crude oil, textiles and footwear. km² overall, but with a substantially higher density in ed on our English skills by native speakers. Profile features of the Swedish society include a genu- the southern half of the country. Seen to population, Sweden is governed by parliamentary democracy and ine strive for gender equality, children’s rights, environ- roughly 9.3 million, Sweden is one of the smaller Euro- constitutional monarchy. The parliament (Riksdag) seats mental protection, an accessible and accepting society, pean nations but has been without population decrease 349 members in one chamber. The separation of church and democracy. Generally speaking, Swedes favor narrow since 1880. Sweden has one of the highest child birth and state goes well with the fact that Swedes are a mainly economic gaps between social classes; yet that is a far cry rates in Europe and a fairly high immigration rate as secularized people, a statement that may seem contra- from socialism as Sweden has a long history as a solid well, with roughly 200 nationalities represented. In dictory considering 70 percent of the population are still market economy. 6 Music festival season in Sweden is brief but intense, a time to let go of one’s inhibitions.
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  8. 8. The Turning Torso skyscraper has made a real impact on the Malmö skyline. 8
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  10. 10. Nature Our Cultural Heritage Is Nature GeoGraphy d i d y o u k n ow T H aT author and playwright august Strindberg Home to some of the last and largest remaining wilder- (1849–1912) once said that the Swedish ness areas in Europe, Sweden is characterized by dramatic flag ought to be green and red rather than changes in scenery even within a relatively small area. One could suggest the only constant is the foundation, blue and yellow—green for the deep green as Sweden is situated in a geologically stable portion of pine forest, and red for the humble red the Eurasian land mass. cottage glowing against its edge? Much of our landscape is dominated by coniferous forests, often complemented by deciduous trees. These make for a beautiful autumn when the leaves burst into the islands their home thanks to the lime-rich bedrock a final display of color and life before the barren winter. and favorable climate. The islands are popular vacation A performance of northern lights. The southernmost landscape, Skåne, is home to Swe- spots, particularly among Swedes. Other tourist magnets den’s most fertile farmlands. A little further north it include the various archipelagos. People from the west a large majority of us live in urban areas that are typi- gives way to the forested highland region of Småland, and east coast argue the superior beauty of their respective cally located in the southern half of the country, where surrounded by a varied pastoral countryside of fields archipelagos when in fact each coast is bestowed with we enjoy a vibrant cultural life, stay up to date with and lakes. its own unique charm. fashion and trends, and where the city pulse moves Off the coast in the Baltic Sea lie Öland and Gotland, Slightly further to the north we find Bergslagen, with us forward at a lagom—just right—pace. if you ask a with some of the country’s oldest and most fascinating ancient deposits of iron and other ores that once gave rise Swede to depict her or his environment, however, historical sites. Orchids and other exotic flora make to Sweden’s oldest industrial region. The area is not far you will probably hear descriptions of scenic vistas, deep forests or a quiet island in the archipelago. The reason is simply that we grow up appreciat- ing the vast natural scenery that surrounds us, just the Sami people grazing lands in the 17th century. Besides reindeer herding and meat production, body and a state authority, tasked with promoting a living Sami culture. It is around the corner from where we live, even if we The Sami make up one of the world’s arts and handicrafts is another tradi- not a body for self-government and the live in a metropolitan area like Stockholm. There is least numerous native peoples, with tional trade that has survived into mod- Sami have no political representation in something about Swedes and being out in the open, around 70,000 individuals living in ern days. Most Sami, however, have jobs the Swedish Parliament. Sápmi, in what is now parts of Sweden, with no connection to the traditional Ancient Sami mythology focuses whether to exercise, get some fresh air or explore the way of life. on the natural elements like the sun Norway, Finland and Russia. About countryside. 20,000 Sami live in Sweden—with their Although Sápmi remains the cultural (Biejvve), mother of the Sami, and the Surrounded by open and often astonishing nature, own cultural heritage, language, flag heartland, the Sami people have spread wind god (Bieggaålmaj), who made it it is quite natural that Sweden should be at the fore- and parliament. out over the Nordic region and there are possible to catch the reindeer. In their Once nomadic hunters and gather- now as many Sami living in Stockholm shamanistic beliefs, nature has a soul. front of sustainable solutions. Swedes are adamant ers who followed the movements of wild as there are in the north of Sweden. Es- The Sami still call themselves “The that future generations should enjoy the same luxu- reindeer, the Sami increasingly began tablished in 1993, the Sami Parliament people of the sun and the wind.” ries of wilderness and fresh air and water. to drive domesticated reindeer between in Sweden is both a publicly elected 10 Sami families outside Jokkmokk divide their reindeer ahead of the move to winter pasture.
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  12. 12. d i d y o u k n ow T H aT Sarek national Park, an area of pure wilderness, stands out from most other parks by not having any facilities for tourists at all? So if you feel like really roughing it in the wild, you know where to go. 12
  13. 13. Here we are d i d y o u k n ow T H aT the celsius temperature scale is named after Swedish astronomer  anders celsius (1701–1744)? water freezes at 0°c and boils at 100°c. from Stockholm, a city of striking beauty spread across Weather and Climate fourteen islands in Lake Mälaren. In 2007, the city con- troversially branded itself as the Capital of Scandina- Swedes ought to give thanks to the Gulf Stream every via, upon which a blogger from Gothenburg responded, day; after all, the misconception that polar bears roam the Kiruna “Great, then we’ll take over as capital of Sweden!” Swedish landscape could actually be true were it not for To the northwest, the Scandinavian mountain range this warm Atlantic current that delivers us from freezing. rises north and south like a fossil beast separating Sweden is also sheltered from cooler and moister Atlantic the arctic circle Norway from Sweden, its modest peaks rising 3,000– winds by the mountains to our west. 7,000 feet/1,000–2,000 meters above sea level, a sneak Still, we do have four distinct seasons, and the winters preview of what’s up ahead in the true north. can be very cold, especially if you venture as far as the north- Following the mountain range, one eventually reaches ernmost third, or for that matter follow a brazen Swede from Lapland (Sápmi), home of one of Europe’s few remaining the warmth of a sauna and plunge into a frozen lake. native people, the Sami. It’s an area of stunning grandeur, a Much more extreme than the fabled Swedish weather vast landscape of true wilderness, at once serene, dramatic is what happens to the light during the shifting seasons. and untamed. The rapidly changing weather and steep Umeå Throughout Sweden the length of daylight increases as FiNlaNd topography make visiting the mountain areas a challenge. spring approaches, and the area most affected is the north It’s unwise to venture off the beaten track in places like (heavy curtains or eye shades come in handy, especially NoRWaY the Sarek National Park without genuine back-country SWedeN in June and July). Above the Arctic Circle the sun does hiking experience. Those who do will have an experience not set for a month or two around summer solstice. Fur- far beyond the ordinary. ther south the few hours of darkness provided are more Gävle Sweden’s largest rivers originate in the mountains, like an afterglow. The opposite is true for the winter and on their way to the Baltic Sea, they pass a mixture of months. Uppsala polar plains, meadows, coniferous and birch forests, and To pierce the darkness up north, besides using fairly huge marshes; in short, they pass through the poetic grandeur Västerås Örebro Stockholm amounts of electric light, the snow helps with reflection and of the Arctic landscape until they reach the coastline occasionally the aurora borealis will play across the sky. Norrköping dappled by islands and islets. This visual symphony of northern lights is one of the most Borås Linköping beautiful and spectacular sights around, formed when elec- trically charged particles are thrust into the earth’s magnetic Jönköping Göteborg Visby (Gothenburg) JaNuaRY JulY decembeR 21 JuNe 21 field at great speed, propelled by solar winds. Växjö W S Helsingborg SolStice SolStice national parks Lund malmö 31.6°F/-0.2°C 62.2°F/+16.8°C 7 hrs daylight 17 hours Malmö To protect its vast natural scenery and cultural heritage Stock- holm 27.0°F/-2.8°C 63.0°F/+17.2°C 6 hrs daylight 18 hours from exploitation, Sweden was the first European country deNmaRk kiRuNa 3.2°F/-16.0°C 55.0°F/+12.8°C 0 hrs daylight 24 hours to set up a nature conservation act and establish national parks: nine of them opened in 1909. A century later the average temperatures number had grown to 29. The Laponia wilderness area beckons hikers to get lost in their thoughts. 13
  14. 14. MYTH: The urban myth that darkness and cold weather makes us suicide-prone has little evidence in reality. Weather or daylight does not seem to have any effect on suicide numbers, and at any rate, Sweden ranks low in international comparisons. The parks constitute large areas representative of cial support from the government, are an important com- The moose is not only a noble animal that lives Swedish landscape types such as astonishing mountain- plement to official conservation. Over the past hundred throughout most forested parts of Sweden, but also ous regions, which make up roughly 90 percent of the years, a lot has been done, but much of the work also a common souvenir motif, a traffic hazard, popular total park area. Others include wetlands, forests, lakes, remains. Luckily, the majority of Swedes are both aware game, and food for our most common animals of prey: streams, coastal regions, and—most recently—our first of the situation and up for the challenge. the brown bear, wolverine, wolf and lynx. Although marine national park, Kosterhavet. Laponia is a con- the other animals in what could be called Sweden’s glomeration of four national parks in western Lapland, animals and VeGetation Big Five are all predators, it is perhaps the moose included in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. that is the most aggressive towards (or least afraid of) Another form of protection is achieved through nature As a result of specific long-term efforts to protect people. When it comes to wildlife management of our reserves, many of which are set up in order to preserve endangered and rare animals, our grazers, birds and predators, the wolf remains the most controversial— natural habitats and the species that live there, or in order animals of prey have been given a second chance after loved or feared. In 2010 the first licensed wolf hunt in to promote outdoor life, or why not both? We currently decades of uninhibited hunting. Any plant or animal 45 years took place, not without a fierce debate. have about 3,200 reserves that lure us out into nature. that is in danger of extinction may be given protect- Wintertime, bird life in Sweden is dominated by a The government and local municipalities go to great ed status by the Swedish Environmental Protection few species, but with spring and summer a large number extents to protect the environment, and so do the people Agency in addition to the shelter afforded through of migratory birds from more southerly climates join who live here. Voluntary efforts, sometimes with finan- national parks and nature reserves. these permanent residents. With its long coastline and many lakes, Sweden also has a rich variety of water- The wolf has been an integral part of the Scandinavian ecosystem since after the last Ice Age. borne life, from fish species to seals. Sweden’s flora is also quite varied, from dandeli- ons to exotic orchids, particularly in the mountains and on the Baltic islands of Gotland and Öland. Perhaps better known than the plants is 18th-century physi- cian and botanist Carl Linnaeus, who is considered one of the most important forerunners of Darwin and who created the first classification system for plants, Systema Naturae. aCCessinG nature With so much grandeur and open space to enjoy, Swedes would be foolish not to take advantage of it. And we do, come rain, snow, wind or sun, defending our rea- soning with the saying, “There is no bad weather, only poor clothing.” After all, what better way of enjoying nature than to take active advantage of it? And depend- ing on taste, that could mean anything from picking chanterelles to ascending a frozen waterfall. 14 Sailboats moor at natural harbors in the archipelago by Väderöarna on the west coast.
  15. 15. d i d y o u k n ow T H aT the limestone rocks on the island of Gotland are locally called raukar? Many of them are in fact very old coral reefs. 16
  16. 16. d i d y o u k n ow T H aT skating, ice yachting or ice climbing. Winter sports are east of Stockholm. People working and living in Norra uppsala university researchers have technically not limited to the wintertime: Midsummer Djurgårdsstaden will be connected to the world’s first downhill skiing is popular north of the Arctic Circle. A “smart” power lines that ensure reliance on clean power for the past six years been working on pretty unique experience considering the sun never sets by saving energy, using locally produced clean energy a unique wave-power technology that over the slopes during this time of year. and avoiding peak hours (programming household ma- is now ready to go into production? The Of course most people don’t go skiing in the sum- chines like dishwashers to run during off-peak hours). uppsala technology turns the power of mertime. People head into the woods to pick berries or This kind of comprehensive approach to an ecologi- mushrooms, hike into the mountains for a backpacking cally sound environment can be found throughout Swe- waves into electrical energy without trek, go sailing or kayaking in the archipelago or set off den. Växjö, a small city in the south, is an internationally emissions or harmful waste, and all you white-river rafting on one of Sweden’s many first-class recognized forerunner in the environmental field. It was can see on the surface of the sea is a rivers. Whether on the look for peace and tranquility or a massive restoration of Lake Växjö in the 1970s that got number of giant yellow buoys. a fix of adrenaline, these practitioners all share a love for the town thinking. The lake is now used for recreation the outdoors. such as swimming, fishing and lakeside walks. Even while big-city tourism is the fastest-growing Växjö has pledged to go much further than the EU di- It’s not just that we live in a sparsely populated region segment, Sweden is, as you might have guessed by now, rectives when it comes to reducing the amount of carbon of natural beauty. Since 1892 we have had a national a major center for ecotourism, and our natural splendor dioxide released into the atmosphere—at least 70 percent organization for promoting outdoor activities; we are is the number one attraction among foreign visitors from by 2025. Sarah Nilsson, an environmental planner at the quite health conscious; and we are probably even more more densely populated parts of the world. Växjö municipality, notices a continued interest in their environmentally conscious. With more people taking approach: “We receive visits from about five groups per part in nature, there is also an opportunity to get more week, three of which are international. So the interest and people to care about preserving it for future generations. sustainable City planninG the pressure on our organization is high. Sometimes we In Sweden, making the outdoors more accessible goes try to catch our breath but most of the time it’s great fun.” hand in hand with informing about its vulnerability. Sweden has a reputation of being an environmental lead- Furthermore, allemansrätten, the unique Swedish right er. Sustainability certainly lies close to our hearts, but we of public access which is a part of our cultural heritage are also one of the world’s largest per capita consumers Swedes learn recycling from an early age. and has its origins in the Middle Ages, allows people to of electricity. In our defense, we are informed consumers go pretty much anywhere in nature without coming across and dedicated to reduce our environmental footprint. One entrance fees or fences, and to pick most wild foods off of the few industrialized countries to reduce carbon emis- the ground along the way. With this right comes a huge sions over the last decades, Sweden will improve these responsibility—to take care of nature and wildlife and to levels further and has committed to become a fossil-fuel show consideration for landowners and others. Basically, free society by 2020. we can be out and about as long as we don’t disturb or Sustainable city planning has also helped justify the destroy. global attention that falls on Sweden’s environmental Sweden is a haven for winter sports. Frozen lakes, work. Hammarby Sjöstad has incorporated sustainability public skating rinks and forests are quickly invaded by into the planning of electricity, water, sewage and refuse. skaters and cross-country skiers. Cabins in the mountains This Stockholm neighborhood is also furnished with are booked by downhill enthusiasts. And more and more open areas and ecological trade spots. are discovering the rush of adrenaline through kite wing A new eco-friendly area is underway for the north- 17 Erosion has worked the design of these limestone rocks on Gotland.
  17. 17. Växjö—the Greenest City in europe There are several fueling stations with Energy efficiency can be accomplished alternative fuels like ethanol (E85) with fairly simple measures, as illustrated and bio fuels and free parking for by the project Biskopshagen: apartments “green” vehicles. and a nursery school fitted with proper in- The energy advisor's office, EnergiCentrum- sulation, recycling of heat from extraction Ett, provides free information and advice on air, and individual metering of heat, water different energy-saving solutions. and electricity. Vehicle positioning systems for commercial trucks and taxis optimizes transport and reduces the movement of empty vehicles. Bicycle paths and lanes are expanded to facilitate cycling and increase bike traffic. The Johansson family, whom you will get to know better in the next chapter, have received financial support for installing solar panels on their Växjö house and have replaced their oil-heating system with distance heating. They separate recyclables and have compost in their yard. Their car is only used for weekend trips as they bike and walk to work and 18 school. The Johanssons live a regular Växjö life.
  18. 18. Passive houses—apartments such as those found in the Portvakten Söder area—are constructed with a wood frame with no traditional heating Växjö has a number of timber construction system, only insulation and heating from people projects of which Välle Broar is the most cohe- CHP (combined heat and power) plants and appliances. The roofs are fitted with solar Public transport is en- sive, with energy-efficient and well-insulated such as Sandvik rely almost exclusively on panels, elevators are energy-efficient, and all couraged and city buses apartments with a framework entirely of biomass. The ashes that follow the smoke lights use low-energy bulbs connected to timers. run on biogas. timber. Choosing timber frames over concrete are caught in a filter and used as fertilizer. greatly reduces the net emissions of CO2. Waste heat is captured and distributed Solar panels are fitted on public and through a network of buried, insulated private buildings. Those on the main pipes to heat buildings. The plant also public swimming pool are even recy- produces cooling from heat via a new cled from a demolished building while technique called absorption cooling. those fitted on a school building are also used in the curriculum: in math- ematics for cost analysis, in physics as a hands-on example of renewable en- ergy sources, and in English for when international visitors stop by for a look at the eco-town Växjö. • Between 1993 and 2008 Växjö has reduced its CO2 emissions by 35 percent. • 56 percent of energy comes from renewable sources (2008). • 46 percent of families in Växjö do not own a private car (2008). 19
  19. 19. The Stockholm Pride festival has become a symbol of Swedish tolerance. 20
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  22. 22. Society Grounded on Democracy, Striving for Equality and Tolerance Modern Sweden is solidly founded on democracy. chosen to live in Växjö mainly because of the city’s focus of SEK 35,600 together. Add to this a tax-exempt child democratic principles shape not only the way the on sustainability and its proximity to nature. More than allowance from the state of SEK 1,050 per month and country is governed, but all levels of society—from four-fifths of Swedes live in cities, and two-thirds live child. Emma and Simon in turn get a monthly allowance preschool to the workplace. we also fly the flag for in houses, one-third in apartments. The Johanssons also from their parents of SEK 220 and 600, respectively. equality and transparency. everyone has the same have a summer house in the country, along with half of (Simon gets more simply because he is older, not be- rights and a chance to have their say, and we are the 35 to 44-year-olds. Their silver-colored Volvo takes cause he is a boy.) all free to scrutinize how our politicians and public them to and from the summer house. When Simon and Emma were babies, in 1991 and agencies exercise their power. With their two children, the Johanssons have slightly 1994, both Anna and Lars used their right to parental Sweden’s economic and social system, often re- leave. Today parents are entitled to as much as 480 paid ferred to as the “Swedish Model,” has lifted the country days at home with each of their children; back then, the to one of the highest standards of living in the world. period was slightly shorter. The signal is clear: it is im- By combining a market economy with a strong public d i d y o u k n o w T H aT portant for both parents to be able to combine a career sector the country ensures equality and financial se- the average Swedish family eats with having children. By implementing generous rules curity for each and every individual. even though the and benefits, Swedish society has made this possible. A economic situation for the public sector has become 2.6 lbs/1.2 kg of sweets per week? on male employee announcing that he wants to go on pater- tougher over the last decades and its general struc- the other hand, more than 60 per- nity leave hardly raises any eyebrows anymore. In 2008, ture is being debated, the Swedish safety net is still cent of Swedes claim to be physically men used around 20 percent of the total parental leave– there—although somewhat weakened. Tax-financed more than twice as much as when Simon was born. active more than 30 minutes a day. education and health care contribute to making Swe- den a role model for many other countries. The individual is at the center of elderly care. SwedeS more than the 2008 average of 1.9 children per woman. The fact that Lars has been married to Anna for fourteen To illustrate the Swedish Model, we want to introduce years also sets him apart from the unmarried majority you to the average Swedish family, the Johanssons: Anna of 39-year-old men in Sweden. Many unmarried Swedes Maria, 42, Lars Erik, 39, Simon, 15, and Emma, 12. This are in a sambo relationship, that is, live together with a family, their names and their life is a fictional construc- partner without being married. And did you know that tion, based on statistical averages for Sweden as reported almost half of the Swedish households are single house- by Statistics Sweden as well as other facts. For example, holds? The reason why Anna is older than Lars in our 272,594 Swedes are named Johansson, which makes this average couple is that women have a higher life expect- the most common surname. ancy. In real life, it is actually more common that the The Johanssons live in the small city of Växjö (280 man is one or two years older than the woman. miles, or 450 kilometers, south-west of Stockholm) in a Anna works in the care sector, earning SEK 20,900 house with a tax-assessed value of SEK 963,000, which per month. Lars makes SEK 26,400 per month in the pro- equals around 75 percent of the market value. They have duction industry. After taxes, they have a monthly income Lucky baby! Your parents can stay home with you for 480 days. 23
  23. 23. eduCation and researCh but still tax-financed—independent schools in many education is fully tax-financed for him. Moreover, if he areas. They offer a similar basic education, but with a decides to study at university he will also be eligible Equal rights to tuition-free education from the age of six more specific focus, such as language, religion or a for financial student aid, which is part grant, part loan. is one of the pillars of the Swedish welfare state. And certain pedagogy. Sweden has a proud history of academic excellence from the very first day at school we are encouraged to From the age of six, Simon and Emma went straight that dates back to the founding of the University of think for ourselves and develop our critical thinking. from school to the after-school day care, a service Uppsala in 1477. Today, Swedish universities are char- When Simon and Emma started preschool at the age offered to children up to twelve that takes a load off acterized by a laid-back atmosphere, where relations of one and a half, state subsidies ensured that Anna and full-time-working parents’ shoulders. The fee for this Lars only had to pay a limited cost for it. In 2009’s fig- type of day care is limited to a maximum of 2 percent ures, this means that preschool never costs parents more of the parents’ income. than 3 percent of their income (or at most SEK 1,260) Until recently, students were only given grades from SNilleblixtaRNa—leaRNiNg the eighth grade, but some schools have now begun to per month, a rule that applies to public as well as private thRough iNNovatioN preschools. Thus affordable for all, the idea is that pre- offer written evaluations at a younger age. Simon is in schools stimulate children’s development and learning, the ninth grade. He will use his final grades to apply for Snilleblixtarna (“Flashes of Genius”) is a Swedish teaching the Social Science Program at the non-compulsory but model that aims to put the fun back into science and technol- while enabling parents to work or study. ogy. It encourages school children to be creative and develop At the age of six, most children start school, but equally free-of-charge high school. Around 98 percent their problem-solving skills, thus giving the children higher only a non-compulsory preschool class. As seven-year- of students who finish compulsory school go on to high self-esteem. Every year a huge number of their amazing olds, Simon and Emma started their nine years of free school. For those who attend high school, the child innovations are exhibited at a national fair. How about a compulsory schooling. Apart from regular primary and allowance is from the age of sixteen transformed into a pair of self-sanding shoes, for example, for those slippery secondary schools, compulsory schooling also includes monthly study allowance. Swedish winter days? Sami school—with education in both Swedish and Sami Simon is not yet clear about what he wants to do for children with Sami parents; special school for chil- after high school. Perhaps he will take a gap year before dren with disabilities; and programs for pupils with doing like hundreds of thousands of his peers and give intellectual disabilities. There are also non-municipal— university studies a go. Why wouldn’t he? Even higher Sex populatioN level oF educatioN (percentages) compulsory education high school higher education: higher education: (age 7–16) shorter than 3 years 3 years or longer WomeN 2,389,451 13 45 15 26 Self-Sanding Shoes For slippery days meN 2,457,670 17 48 14 19 Andreas, Felix & Salim 11 years old all 4,847,121 15 46 14 22 level of education among people in Sweden aged 25–64 (2008) 24
  24. 24. between students and teachers are open and informal. of private health care providers in Sweden are starting to Life expectancy in Sweden is about 83 years for But don’t get the wrong idea—Sweden is renowned for compete with the public care facilities. The clever thing women and 79 for men. Anna’s parents are pushing 75, its high education standards. Teachers simply encourage is that the social insurance covers them as well, so the and the Johanssons have started looking into elderly care students to use their own initiative rather than tell them cost to the patient is the same. for them. Swedes are so used to their independent lives exactly what to do. Most likely, the prestigious Nobel Dental care is not quite as subsidized as other health that arranging elderly care for your parents is all about Prize has played a part in convincing us that innovation care, and the dentists decide on their own treatment prices. finding the best solution to allow your parents to keep is the way forward. But social insurance still pays for Simon’s and Emma’s leading active lives. Anna’s parents will probably be able check-ups or treatments—until the year they turn twenty. to stay in their own home, where they can get access to From then on, they will receive a dental care allowance public support, including home meal delivery, help with health Care and and will be protected by a high-cost ceiling. cleaning and shopping, transportation service, as well as soCial seCurity Should Anna or Lars lose their job, they will receive social and health care when needed. Should their health unemployment pay linked to their previous salary be- deteriorate with age, there is also special housing with The Swedish health care system is closely linked to social cause they are members of an unemployment insur- around-the-clock care. Most of the elderly care is pro- insurance, which means that everyone who lives or works ance program. Without insurance, they would still be vided by municipalities, some by private operators. in Sweden has access to heavily subsidized health care. entitled to an activity grant from the Social Insurance If Anna or Lars falls ill, it is of course a nuisance but Agency, but that would mean less money. The Labor MarkeT not a financial disaster for the family. Sick-leave pay from An income support benefit provides for those who your employer normally amounts to 80 percent of your are not entitled to unemployment pay/activity grant nor The Swedish work climate is generally open and infor- salary, apart from the first day, when you don’t get paid sick pay/sickness benefit. This benefit is intended to be a mal. We call the boss by her or his first name, encour- at all. If they are ill for more than fourteen days, they will short-term solution to help people get back on their feet. get a slightly lower sickness benefit from the Swedish Low-income families are also able to apply for housing Social Insurance Agency. For longer-term illnesses, the allowance. couNtY developmeNt: 112 (3) entitlement to sickness benefit will be assessed at regular With quite a few years to go, Lars and Anna have deNtal caRe: 102 (3) intervals. already started talking about the financial implications political oRgaNizatioN: 19 (0.5) When Anna and Lars go to see a doctor, they only of retirement. They are happy to know that Sweden educatioN*: 13 (0.5) pay a fee of between SEK 100 and 200 depending on invests more of its gross domestic product in its eld- the county, or a maximum of SEK 300 for a specialist erly citizens than any other country in the world. All otheR: 91 (2.5) visit. The fee for staying in a hospital is SEK 80 per Swedish residents are entitled to a state-financed guar- day. High-cost ceilings also limit the yearly cost for both anteed minimum pension from the age of 65, which *Continuing education medical consultations (SEK 900) and prescription medi- for employees of the is the standard retirement age in Sweden. Since Lars county of Kronoberg. cation (SEK 1,800). and Anna are both employed, they will automatical- Most health care is provided in health centers, where ly receive an income pension instead, as well as an health caRe: doctors, nurses and other staff work together. The employment-based pension that their employer con- 3,320 (90.5) Johanssons have all registered with a health center in tributes to throughout their working life. But to make the vicinity of their home in Växjö. Responsibility for sure that they can sustain their relatively high living providing health care is decentralized to the counties standard, they complement these pensions with pri- Public spending, in MSek and %, in the county of and, in some cases, municipalities. A growing number vate savings. kronoberg (2008) 25
  25. 25. NatioNal aveRage age teamwork, have flexible work hours, dress casually Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is central to växJö SEK/inhab. and strive for gender equality. A long tradition of active Swedish businesses, which a widespread concern for 0 5,000 10,000 15,000 20,000 labor market policies and powerful unions has resulted the environment, human rights and anticorruption bears in a strong protection of workers’ rights and a great witness to. Call it pretentious if you like, but Swedes caRe FoR the eldeRlY number of benefits for Swedish employees. believe that a responsible approach to business can aNd the diSabled With the history of Swedish trade and labor unions change society and the environment for the better. reaching as far back as the late 1800s, almost 80 percent of By now, you may have figured out that although the educatioN Swedish workers are union members, including private- Johanssons’ monthly income may be fairly low in com- sector worker Lars and public-sector employee Anna. parison with some of the other industrialized countries, One of the unions’ main roles is to drive and support col- they have managed to achieve a very high living stand- child caRe lective bargaining. This is a system in which unions nego- ard thanks to all the tax-financed public services they tiate with employers to establish a set of rights—ranging have access to. from wage and vacation agreements to the right to go on strike—that apply to all employees at a workplace. equality iNFRaStRuctuRe As a health-care employee of the county council of Kronoberg, Anna enjoys as many as 31 days of paid According to the Global Gender Gap Report issued an- vacation a year since she turned 40. Lars, who works nually by the World Economic Forum, Sweden is one iNdividual aNd in the production industry, has the legal minimum of 25 FamilY aSSiStaNce days’ vacation. On the other hand, Lars always has the twelve national holidays off, whereas Anna sometimes has to work due to the irregular work schedules in the Special pRoJectS Welcome, global WoRkeRS! care sector. At least a couple of times a year, Anna and Lars are Since December 2008, Sweden has more relaxed labor migra- tion laws for non-Nordic, non-EU/EEA and non-Swiss resi- RecReatioN offered to go on a course. This is part of a well-devel- dents. The new approach to work permit legislation is unique. oped system of continuing education that is aimed at From abroad, someone can find a job in Sweden, receive an ensuring that all employees get a chance to develop, offer of employment, and get a Swedish work permit. After both as professionals and as individuals. Swedish em- only four years, permanent residency can be granted. These cultuRe ployees have collective agreements to thank for many new rules are aimed at helping Sweden attract the best talent of their employment benefits. available in the fast-changing global labor market. The safety of the working environment is the shared political admiN. responsibility of employers, employees and equipment suppliers, and the regulations can be found in the Work top buSiNeSS SectoRS 0 5,000 10,000 15,000 20,000 Environment Act. The act also contains measures to SEK/inhab. Sweden’s largest private sectors include cleantech, informa- restrict hazards, prevent accidents and in other ways tion and communication technologies (ICT), life sciences, the protect the physical and mental health of employees. automotive industry and material sciences. Naturally, forestry Public expenditure in Sek per inhabitant in the Apart from being safe, Swedish workplaces are also and such public sectors as health care also continue to em- municipality of Växjö (2007) known for their fairness, honesty and transparency. ploy a large number of people. 26 A Johansson family at the beach.
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  28. 28. The five most common occupations among women (2007) of the world leaders in equality between the sexes. Both Sweden has taken action against this dreadful trade by women and men are entitled to parental leave, women’s implementing strict legislation. First we criminalized occupatioN NuMbER oF SHARE (%)   WomeN meN WomeN meN salaries amount to about 93 percent of men’s and many those who purchase sex; then we specifically banned assistant nurses spouses share responsibilities in the home. In addition, human trafficking for sexual purposes, a law that was and hospital ward 148,600 11,700 93 7 around 80 percent of all women aged 20–64 are working subsequently extended to include other forms of exploi- assistants (figures from 2007), a remarkably high figure in interna- tation as well. And in 2008, the government decided to Home-based tional comparison. distribute more public funding to intensify the efforts personal care and related workers 135,000 25,500 84 16 It seems rather uncontroversial to claim that family- to combat prostitution and human trafficking for sexual friendly policies, such as the accessible and affordable purposes. These Swedish actions and policies are inspir- childcare that has allowed families like the Johanssons ing many other countries to get tougher. childcare workers 85,300 10,900 89 11 more flexibility in their lives, have contributed to Swe- In 2009, Sweden took another important step to- den’s relatively high fertility rate of 1.9 children per ward a more equal society: same-sex marriage was Preschool teaching 74,900 6,200 92 8 woman (compared with the European average of 1.5 professionals children). Women like Anna Johansson don’t have to choose between pursuing a career and having children; other office clerks 73,500 19,600 79 21 the public sector makes sure they can have both. So, all good in the paradise of equality, then? No, not mileStoNeS oF SWediSh quite. Although women may be getting more and more geNdeR equalitY power among private businesses, they are still in the mi- nority on the board and management levels, and com- 1845: Equal inheritance rights for women and men. The five most common occupations among men (2007) panies are criticized for not doing enough to improve 1921: Women get the right to vote and run for office. occupatioN NuMbER oF SHARE (%) the balance between the sexes. On the other hand, the 1938: Contraception is legalized.   WomeN meN meN WomeN majority of managers in municipalities, county councils 1965: Sweden passes a law against rape in marriage. Technical and and central government are women, as well as almost commercial sales 60,000 23,000 72 28 1974: Parental insurance is introduced, granting both representatives 50 percent of members of the Swedish government and parents the right to parental leave. parliament. Heavy truck and 54,100 1,800 97 3 Of course, equality covers more than gender gaps; 1975: A new abortion law permits free abortions through lorry drivers it’s about offering everyone the same chances regardless the 18th week. computer systems of sex, ethnic origin, religion or other belief, disability, 1980: Female (i.e. gender-neutral) succession to the throne designers, analysts 51,800 14,100 79 21 sexual orientation or age. Sweden has a long history of comes into effect. and programmers promoting equal rights for all through legislation and by 1980: The Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman Stock clerks and openly taking a stand against all kinds of discrimination. is introduced (became part of the Equality Ombudsman storekeepers 47,200 11,000 81 19 This is why many Swedes react very strongly against the in 2009). appearance of xenophobic parties on the political scene Machine-tool and why racist demonstrations are always met with 1998: The Act on Violence against Women is introduced. 43,900 5,600 89 11 operators strong opposition. 1999: A new law forbids the purchase of sexual services. A global obstacle to equality is human trafficking. 2002: Human trafficking for sexual purposes is criminalized. The office, Swedish style: we speak our mind and work as a team. 29
  29. 29. legalized—with support from the Church of Sweden. Sweden’s top rankings over the years as one of the least 45 (11) Registered partnership for homosexuals was introduced corrupt nations indicates that this logic stands. Sweden miNiSteRS already in 1995, but the gender-neutral view on mar- takes transparency to new heights: laws give the general 55 (89) riage means that gay and lesbian couples who get mar- public and media access to official records, including ried now have the same legal status as people in hetero- everything down to emails sent within a government sexual marriages. agency, and requires the information to be easy to un- We also have laws aimed at protecting children’s derstand and free of charge. Of course, some things 32 (0) rights, both in society and in the home. In 1979, many such as national security can be classified, but on the uNdeRSecRetaRieS other countries considered Sweden radical—perhaps whole, if it is official it is available to anyone who asks. 68 (100) even mad—when it became the first country in the world The principle of public access also means that govern- to ban parents from spanking their children. ment employees are free to inform the media on their own initiative. 35 (2) demoCraCy To further ensure public transparency the Swedish top admiNiStRatoRS government has since 1809 used the ombudsman sys- 65 (98) Perhaps the whole point of democracy and freedom is to tem—public agencies that represent the interests of in- be able to discover things for oneself—and be allowed to dividuals or groups. Among other things, an ombudsman fail. We Swedes may be somewhat overzealous when it investigates constituent complaints. Specifically, the woMen Men comes to rules, maybe because we see most of them as Parliamentary Ombudsman handles complaints against a a necessity to ensure an equal and just society. Turns out public authority or civil servant. The Equality Ombuds- we are just as zealous when it comes to defending our man promotes equal rights and fights all forms of dis- Gender distribution of top officials in government offices freedoms. crimination due to ethnical background, gender, sexual in March 2008 (percentages for 1973 in brackets) Two laws recently introduced brought the Swedish preference, or disability. People who feel they have been public to the edge of their seats: the FRA law, which misled by an advertising campaign have an ombudsman authorized the government to monitor all computer and to turn to, and there are also separate ombudsman offices telephone communications between Sweden and the for children and for the press. the SocialiSt ghoSt outside world, and the IPRED law, which is an attempt Of course most of these rights also require responsi- There is an exaggerated rumor about Sweden being a social- to curb internet piracy. The laws were controversial but bility from those who enjoy it. Freedom of speech can ist country, alluding to the threatening communist East of the public reactions revealed a lot about our adamant de- be seen as offensive or have negative consequences for the Cold War. While it is true that the Social Democrats ruled fense of our freedoms. an individual or society. With a global information flow Sweden for most of the 20th century, Sweden has been a mar- In Sweden we enjoy a free press, the right to partici- through the internet, we Swedes also have to take into ket economy for a long time, with a vast majority of Swedish businesses being privately owned. Public–private cooperation pate in demonstrations, freedom of speech and the right consideration the reactions from other countries, and be is increasingly common and we no longer have any inheri- to scrutinize those in power. In 1766, when Sweden prepared to explain and justify our rights to people with tance tax or wealth tax. Moreover, the Swedish tax on real es- enacted the world’s first freedom of press act, it was a different values. These laws are in place to ensure human tate is low compared with other countries. We do, on the other radical move. The Swedish laws ensuring freedom of rights and freedoms for all. Public power should always hand, still pay enough taxes to get access to a wide range of free and subsidized public services—education, health care, information and especially public transparency are still be exercised with respect for the equality of all and for infrastructure and so on. Is this why the 2009 Eurobarometer turning a few international heads. the freedom of the individual. survey showed that 96 percent of Swedes are satisfied with Transparency reduces the risk of abuse of power. the life they lead? 30 Reaction against the FRA legislation outside the parliament building.
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  31. 31. GoVernment sions and the government implements them, but also to vote in elections to the municipality and county submits proposals for new laws or amendments to laws where they are registered. This also applies to other All power proceeds from the people. This is the foun- to the parliament. foreign citizens aged at least 18 who have been reg- dation of the parliamentary democracy in Sweden, Every four years, we have free, universal and istered in Sweden for at least three years. To vote even though the country is formally ruled by a gov- equal elections where we vote for our preferred in a parliamentary election, you must be a Swed- ernment. The 349 members of the Swedish parliament representatives to the national, regional and local ish citizen aged at least 18 registered or previously (Riksdag) represent the people and the government governments. In international comparisons election registered in Sweden. Most Swedish citizens living answers to the parliament. The parliament has the turnout is normally high, even though it has fallen abroad are also eligible to vote. legislative power and the government the executive to about 80 percent in recent decades. Citizens of After the parliamentary elections, the speaker of power. In other words, the parliament makes the deci- an EU country, Norway or Iceland have the right the parliament suggests a new prime minister based on who has the strongest political support in the new Rosenbad (left) is home to the Swedish government. parliament. The parliament then formally appoints the suggested prime minister, who in turn appoints the ministers for the new government. The Social Democrats governed Sweden for most of the 20th century, but over the last few decades pow- er has shifted back and forth between them and the four main opposing parties—the Moderates, Liberals, Center and Christian Democrats. Swedish governance as a whole is built on decentrali- zation. On a local and regional level, the municipalities and the county councils are autonomous political bod- ies with clearly defined areas of responsibility. The lo- cal councils deal with, for example, city planning and schools, while the county councils are in charge of areas such as health care and infrastructure. Since 1995 Sweden is a member of the European Union, which means that many new laws that are made in Sweden start out as EU directives. The ini- tially skeptic Swedes have shown a growing support for the union over the last few years. According to the 2009 Eurobarometer, 70 percent of Swedes are optimistic about the future of the union. Sweden is represented by 18 of the 736 members of the Euro- pean Parliament, and we have ten out of 345 votes in the Council of Ministers. EU elections are held every five years. 32
  32. 32. d i d y o u k n ow T H aT Sweden has had a king for more than a thousand years, which makes our monarchy one of the oldest in the world? monarChy Despite her royal upbringing, Crown Princess Vic- sWeden in the World toria is considered to be down to earth and fond of Perhaps a little contradictory for such a modern na- ordinary pastimes like playing golf, skiing and work- Located as we are on the Scandinavian Peninsula, off the tion, Sweden is also a constitutional monarchy. But ing out. In fact, she met Daniel Westling at the gym mainland of Europe, we had the choice to stand on the although our formal head of state is King Carl XVI where he was the crown princess’s personal trainer. sidelines. But Swedish companies have almost always Gustaf, the Swedish royal family has long had only looked abroad for a bigger market. We have made a representative and ceremonial functions. The people name for ourselves through our active involvement with seem to like the glamour that surrounds the royals, Crown Princess Victoria’s laid-back style has helped modernize global issues. Swedish Vikings were certainly out and though. The monarchy still has widespread public sup- the image the Swedish royal family. about, and these days, Swedish tourists are even more port, so despite the fact that several political parties eager travelers. want Sweden to become a republic, abolishment of the We are not about to stick our head in the sand and ig- monarchy is not really on the agenda. nore global problems like poverty, instability or environ- By his side, the king has Queen Silvia and their mental devastation. Sweden clinched the top spot in the three children—Crown Princess Victoria, Prince Carl 2009 Commitment to Development Index (CDI), partly Philip and Princess Madeleine. Queen Silvia was born because we give 1 percent of our Gross National Income in Germany to the German–Brazilian Sommerlath to foreign aid, without any requirement for recipient na- family. As the story goes, the king and future queen tions to spend aid money on Swedish goods and services. clicked immediately when they first met in Munich Sweden is also highly involved in peace mediations and in 1972, and they subsequently got married in 1976. takes part in international peacekeeping missions under Sweden has been a hereditary kingdom since the the UN. The environmental stance taken by the Swedish days of Gustav Vasa in 1544 and the current succes- government on the international arena also sends a clear sor to the throne is Crown Princess Victoria. It was message about our commitment to a stable and peaceful two years after her birth, in 1979, that Sweden became world. the first country to make its Act of Succession gender- Sweden is widely known for its neutrality. We have not neutral so as to allow the throne to be passed to the been a participant in any war since 1814 and throughout first-born child, whether male or female. the Cold War remained unaligned in order to make neu- Crown Princess Victoria has become one of Sweden’s trality in the event of war possible. Yet we are currently most important ambassadors, not least through all the in command of one of eighteen European Union fast-re- attention that her 2010 wedding to commoner Daniel sponse units, the Nordic Battle Group. Our neutrality is Westling has attracted. Her duties involve supporting officially intact, but there is no denying it has been modi- the king, replacing him on official engagements and fied to fit a changing world. As a member of the UN and state visits that he is unable to attend. In addition to the international community we have long contributed being involved in international aid work and peace with troops to peace-keeping missions. activism, she works with charity through the Crown If you don’t come in contact with Sweden in any other Princess Victoria’s Fund, which supports leisure and way, chances are you will do business with a Swedish recreational activities for children and young people brand like IKEA, H&M or Ericsson. Swedish companies with chronic illnesses or functional disabilities. command a disproportionate share of the global market 33